Matthew 19:27-20:19 – A Kingdom Attitude


The disciples have just seen Jesus turn away a rich young ruler.  As they ponder what has occurred, Peter decides its time to blurt out the obvious fact that they had done what the rich young ruler could not.  They had given up everything to follow Jesus.  Usually when Peter speaks he is chastised by Christ.  Notice that there is no disciplinary action from Jesus.  This is important to the context of the following parable.  Instead, Jesus agrees with Peter and encourages him.  He tells Peter that he will reap great rewards for his obedience and that he will even have a throne to sit on beside Jesus for eternity.  Jesus then tells them that everyone who sacrifices in such ways as the original twelve disciples will be rewarded.  This shouldn’t surprise us.  Jesus has already taught us that there is no such thing as a fruitless Christian (Matthew 13:8).  We also know that we will be rewarded for our fruitfulness (I Corinthians 3:14-15).  This is why Paul can rightly teach the church at Corinth to not just compete, but run to win the prize (I Corinthians 9:24).  However, we must also notice that there is something Jesus adds that is not a reward, but instead an inheritance.  Eternal life is never a reward to be earned, but a gift to be received.  This proper understanding can now lead us to effectively interpret the parable that Jesus tells next.



This parable is only found in Matthew and is the subject of much scholastic debate.  Many miss the context we just walked through and teach that Jesus was a socialist.  It never surprises me when people read what they want into the text (see last week’s eisegesis versus exegesis).  Jesus does give this parable so that His disciples, who are working hard and sacrificing greatly, don’t miss God’s generosity toward them or anyone else.  Self-righteousness is a terrible thing and Jesus wants to protect all His disciples from its venom.  It is exactly when we are working hard for Jesus that we begin to notice others who are not sweating as heavily as we are.  We begin to think terrible thoughts about how God must love us more than them because we are so much more committed.  We should not grumble or complain when God generously gives them the same gift of eternal life that He gives to us.  God is not unjust.  God is merciful and generous to all of us.  This is what it means when Jesus says the first shall be last.  Think about it.  One day as we gaze upon the beauty of Jesus, we may find ourselves standing next to Martin Luther and Billy Graham on one side with our uncle and third cousin on the other.  Obviously some worked harder and did more for Christ when they lived.  However, the cross is the great equalizer.  None of us earn eternity through our works.  The thief on the cross only had time to repent, yet he will rejoice alongside Peter who died a martyr’s death.  God gives generously to all His people, regardless of their efforts.  Praise His name!


Study Questions

  1. Why do we need to understand that God rewards His people for their obedience and faithfulness?
  2. Why should we never confuse His rewards with His grace?
  3. How can parables like this one guard our hearts from falling into self-righteousness?